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Schumer Calls For Hudson Boat Inspection Reforms

COLD SPRING, N.Y. – United States Senator Charles Schumer paid a visit to the small village on the Hudson River Thursday to announce legislation to change how boat inspections on the river are handled.

Boats on the river are often stopped multiple times by multiple agencies, making recreational boating on the Hudson increasingly frustrating, Schumer said.

“The message from the boaters is crystal clear,” he said. “Repeated and redundant stops are forcing boaters to shut down their engines too many times, slowing the day and slowing down their enjoyment of this beautiful river, The Hudson, and slowing down our local economy.”

Local Hudson River boaters are stopped by not only the United States Coast Guard, but also the state police and local county sheriff’s office, Schumer added.

“When three different agencies stop you on the same day, occasionally one agency more than once, it’s almost like boating on the river in the winter when it’s full of ice -- you don’t go anywhere,” Schumer said.

Reducing the number of stops would also free up local law enforcement agencies to concentrate on more serious safety hazards, he said. “We have Indian Point a few miles down the river, and we need to protect it,” Schumer said. “We also have our bridges and we have other boats with reckless or intoxicated boaters.”

Schumer is calling on the United States Coast Guard to work with town and county law enforcement agencies across the state to devise a system to streamline the inspection process, such as creating an inspection sticker like those found on automobiles. The coast guard already uses an electronic PDA system to keep track of boats they have stopped, and Schumer said he wanted other agencies to have access to a similar system.

Schumer was joined by Lex Filipowski, publisher of Boating on the Hudson Magazine and co-founder of the group Freedom to go Boating. Filipowski has called for similar actions in recent months, including a rally in Croton last month.

Over the past five years, the experiences of recreational boaters on the Hudson River has changed dramatically for the worse, Filipowski said. “I was stopped four times in two days in a four mile stretch of the Hudson River by four different agencies with no probable cause, all in the name of safety checks,” Filipowski said. “A safety check can take 15 minutes, 30 minutes to 45 minutes each, and if we only have two hours to boat that’s a good chunk of our day.”

Filipowski joined Schumer in calling for a yearly boat inspection similar to those required for automobiles. Also on hand was Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith, who said that his force works with other nearby county law enforcement agencies in patrolling the river.

“Anything that facilitates communication, coordination and cooperation to help everyone be safe while at the same time enjoying the beauty of the Hudson River, we certainly support,” Smith said.

Putnam County marine unit Sergeant Mike Zabo said his unit only stops boats for a probable cause and has only written one ticket this year, and has worked with other law enforcement groups to coordinate patrols. A registration sticker program would be something he would support, he said.

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